The Mountain Bike Life

Nephew Leo’s text came through at 10:30pm Saturday night. If I hadn’t been out later than usual, I’d surely have slept right through it and missed out on one of the best rides in a very long time. I was just crawling in to bed when my cell phone buzzed. “Hey, I can ride with ya tomorrow after all! I’ll meet you anytime, anywhere!”

Sharing the joy with family. Leo’s selfie with his mountain biking Aunt Colleen.

Sharing the joy with
family. Leo’s selfie with his mountain biking Aunt Colleen.

Boyfriend Al, lying next to me and deep in thought about the cowboy mystery on his Kindle, took my friendly elbow in the ribs along with my Sunday plan. “We’re going riding with Leo tomorrow. He’s never been to Aliso. Let’s meet him there at 8:30am.”

Al’s reply’s to most of my questions are usually single syllables. After 10pm, I’m lucky if I get a nod. He’s a deep thinker and artistic type. Of all the ways we are different, we are so on the same page, out there, where our knobby tires meet earth and we find the wild places where we are both beyond happy. It’s where we met, fell in love with m/bikes and e/other and go to solve problems and rediscover our best selves.

I texted back to Leo. “Great! How bout 8:30 at the church parking lot next to Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness park off Alicia?” His reply; “So down.” I asked Al if that meant yes. I was so down, too.

Leo has only been mountain biking a short time. I’ve see his posts on FB and notice he’s been riding hills near his home not far from us. This would be our first
ride together.

We pulled up to park and unload. Leo was already there. A very good sign. He’s been spending more time in nature, loves hiking on solo trips and more time on his bike. His big smile and enthusiasm reminded me of how I felt that way ten years ago when I made a big life change. I discovered this wilderness park, mountain biking bliss and the friends who’d ride with me and teach me how to not crash every Sunday morning. My life was falling part and growing on a positive new path at the same time and my red Santa Cruz Superlight was The WAY to heal, be happy and grow strong.

Al and I both enjoy taking new riders out and showing them the trails. When I first met Al, he was in the group of riders who came to my rescue the day I crashed ‘cuz I was a dumb newbie rider. They invited me to join them and learn how not to be an idiot on the trails (and not to return with the P.O.S. I’d been riding but to invest in a decent bike.)

He was the one who’d sweep me along in the back of the group and talk to me about everything mountain bike. How, when, why, yes, no, try this, try that, don’t, do, trust, brakes, speed, death cookies.

As the years rolled by he talked less because he felt I didn’t need any more teaching. As Leo and I followed him out of the lot and onto the dirt, he started talking to Leo about the park and its’ trails. I followed the two of them as we headed down Wood Canyon Trail and deeper into the park. I was enjoying hearing it all again. And being a part of Leo’s virgin ride into the most absolutely favorite place on earth I call my park.

Feeling my nephew’s happiness at being out there for his first time in this amazingly beautiful park on a primo conditions morning, filled me again, with those initial feelings of “OMG this is the most amazing sensation to ride a suspension bike on dirt trails!“ And way deep is that stirring; the sensual, spiritual, liberating, organic, cosmic high that belongs to me when I’m out here on my mountain bike. I’m free, I’m ageless, I’m beautiful (Al does tell me that quite frequently when we ride,) I love the world and my life and everyone in it. I’d love to package it and apply it like a body lotion Mon.-Fri. The only way to keep it coming is to be in it, every chance I get.

SO back to Leo. Riding with him for two hours and sharing our favorite Coyote

Trail, Dripping Cave Trail and explaining our future rides together down Rock-It Trail and Mathis Trail, renewed the down and dirty happy, kick-ass feeling of “being” on a mountain biker. His body was light and easy on his bike, he rode with youthful exuberance and grinned from ear to ear all morning. I felt myself and Al lighten up together in a way we had not shared in too long.

A new ride in the bag for Leo. | Photo: Colleen Hannegan

A new ride in the bag for Leo. | Photo:
Colleen Hannegan

We’re not racers, and some of our past buddies have moved onto cyclocross. And so many new riders to the dirt came from the street and hammer every mile. We prefer our classic mountain biking duds, not racer gear advertising big companies that dominate the trails. Old-fashioned? I started to feel it, and then this ride with Leo.

We never miss a stop to check out the deer nearby or coyote family or halt the ride to follow the flight of the red-tailed hawk hovering over the meadow looking for breakfast. It’s never been about how fast or how far. It’s always been the adventure of leaving the sidewalk and checking out who we are in nature, on a mountain bike, in the wilderness.

Next time we take Leo out there, I want to ride behind him climbing up and over Cholla, then sailing along Westridge, so I can fly down Mathis wearing my well –
worn classic mountain biking shorts.

The best way to start the weekend. Al and Colleen. | Photo: Colleen Hannegan

e heaThe best way to
start the weekend. Al and Colleen. | Photo: Colleen Hannegan

I want to remember ……and make it feel like the first time, again.

This is a guest post from Colleen Hannegan.

Colleen is a professional speaker to health care professionals and business owners, and author of the awesome book Girl On Bike. If we are lucky she will continue to share her stories with us.

Off Season
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